Successful Young Entrepreneur Ben Lang Talks Startup Vision And Almost Getting Sued By The New York Times
At 14, Ben Lang followed his entrepreneurial instinct to launch a business that sold other people’s items on ebay for 15% commission. Items people typically thought were junk were being sold quite easily through Ben’s business.
Ben is a serial entrepreneur and today, at age 18, he’s already been involved in 11 projects, 7 of which he has founded. At 17, he founded MySchoolHelp which is a site that helps high school students find notes to their classes online via a search for their particular school.
Ben’s already a very successful young entrepreneur at 18-years-old and he’s had quite a few interesting (and sometimes frightening) experiences in his young life. In 2010, he was once threatened with a lawsuit by the New York Times. We had a chance to talk Ben recently about his new site, Mapped In Israel, his entrepreneurial experiences and his thoughts on Israeli startups. Here’s what he shared with us:
I read that you started your first business at the age of 14 and that you’ve launched many more since then. What do you think all of your projects have in common?
Lately most of the startups and projects I’ve been a part of have been products that I use myself. The most natural way to build a product is to focus on what you need from it and how it would help you personally. And as you move along to figure out how users will benefit from it. That’s the strategy I’ve been following for the past year.
How did you manage to live in Silicon Valley for one summer on $250?
I lived in an apartment with an extended family member which significantly cut the costs. For food, I would go to tech events every day to eat. And I tried to bike as much as possible.
In what sense do you think the New York Times’ reaction to your site FreeNewYorkTimes.com was over exaggerated?
Definitely over exaggerated, if they had sent me a message telling me to shut down the site I would have. It wasn’t necessary to shut down my server which closed all my sites for almost a week. Overall though, FreeNewYorkTimes wasn’t one of my brightest ideas.
What advantages do you feel you possess (in any context be it general or specific) as an 18 year old entrepreneur?
The biggest advantage would be living at home. You have no costs and little responsibility which makes it very easy to build stuff and if you fail, no big deal. Other than that, at networking events, it’s a good conversation starter.
Which Israeli startups have you been impressed with lately?
Here are some that have impressed me lately:
And of course many more, I could go on and on…
Are there any common mistakes you see repeatedly in the startup world that you think can easily be avoided?
One mistake I’ve been noticing lately is many startups (at least in Israel) are focusing on just getting to TechCrunch instead of continuously building a great product. Getting blog coverage isn’t going to make or break a startup, it’s the product. If you build something incredible and get one user, that user may share it with their friends which is much more crucial than coverage.
Do you have a particular business philosophy that you apply to your projects?
Build stuff that you would use yourself. Make sure it solves a problem for you.
I read that you’re currently serving in the Israeli army as part of mandatory service. Can you tell me in what area you’re involved in and what that experience has been like?
I volunteered to join after I finished high school last year. Been a great experience so far.
Do you think you’re business experience in some ways has helped you in your military experience with the Israeli army?
Yes for sure!
How do you keep yourself motivated to stay involved in so many different projects?
I love it and enjoy every moment.
If and when you have time to step away from your business related projects, what do you do?
It’s what I want to do my whole life, so I can’t imagine that.
On your site, you state one of your goals is to “show the rest of the world the true face of Israel.” What do you mean exactly?
The media portrays Israel falsely on a daily basis. In general, Israelis want to live their lives peacefully and enjoy. They don’t want to join the army, fight and deal with suicide bombers… Israel is a beautiful country, with beaches, mountains, forests and parks. There are over 5,000 startups in the country, which is an insane number for a population of 7 million. People just don’t know these things until they come and visit.
Ben Lang is clearly destined for continued greatness. As a young visionary who is passionate about what he does and who shows no signs of slowing down, Ben is sure to be the topic of many entrepreneurial conversations for years to come. Obviously, his experience from a young age has helped shaped his perspective of the business landscape. Already having experiences on both coasts of the U.S. and now Israel, Ben is making connections and involving himself in innovation that’s truly admirable.